Note to Self: High-End Compensation Reform
Doug Elmendorf for Treasury Secretary

Teresa Nielsen Hayden Thinks John McCain Is Unqualified to Be President

She writes:

Making Light: Melanoma and narcissism: Kelly, I’ll take “Arrogance and Bad Vetting” for $600. Their vetting process seems to have only taken a few days, and to have been conducted from Washington and on Google. The centerpiece of it was a long questionnaire they went over with Palin in person.

I take their belief that Palin would self-report any problems as evidence that they didn’t know the woman. The same goes for expecting her to know what happened to Thomas Eagleton when he failed to report a lurking problem.

There are multiple reports from people in Alaska (big state, small community), and particularly people in the Alaskan government, who said they’d never been asked anything, and that they didn’t know anyone else who’d been asked either. In addition, one of the employees at the Wasilla newspaper (which is only partly available online) let drop that prior to Palin being named the Republican candidate for Vice President, no one had looked at the newspaper’s hardcopy archives in months

If you want to set yourself up for unpleasant surprises, that’s one way to do it....

My instant reaction to the Troopergate chronology was that we’re looking at a clinical personality disorder, located somewhere in the immediate vicinity of narcissism. If I’m right, Palin is basically out of control, and unlikely to improve. Have you ever dealt with a full-blown narcissist? “Self-centered” is too mild a description. They’ve got a weirdly information-deprived worldview; they can’t process criticism, failure, or noncompliance; and they have a constant need for external validation of their grandiose self-images. It can lead them to do amazingly stupid things.

What I immediately noticed was that Palin hasn’t bothered to keep track of the stories she tells. It’s not that she can’t; she’s not that stupid. Rather, it hasn’t occurred to her to do so. She isn’t thinking about other people’s reactions. That isn’t bad judgement, or an absence of judgement. It’s a pathological lack of interest in the subject. Here are my comments on the Troopergate chronology that “DobermanTracker” posted at McClatchy:

  • **First she would not tell us (Anchorage, Alaska) why she fired Monegan. He was in a high-profile position; he’d already had a middlin’-distinguished career; Palin appointed him in the first place; when she fired him, she offered him another state job; and there just doesn’t seem to be much evidence of general dissatisfaction with his work, or of preexisting disagreements between Palin and Monegan that didn’t involve Wooten. It was bizarre of Palin to not realize she’d be expected to explain that, or that there might be repercussions. I’d expect a candidate for county dogcatcher to know better than that.
  • Then, finally, she said she wanted to take the department in a new direction.
  • Took forever (week at least) to get her to state what that direction was. “Taking the department in a new direction” is not the same thing as “firing for cause.” It’s one of four unrelated issues Palin has cited as her reason for firing Monagan. She dropped the second one--that he was not adequately filling state trooper vacancies--after Monegan pointed out that the police academy was about to graduate its largest class ever. The third, that he wasn’t doing enough to fight alcohol abuse problems, is problematical in light of the fact that the state job she offered him at the time of his firing was Executive Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The fourth, that he “did not turn out to be a team player on budgeting issues,” could mean anything. (Subsequent, equally meaningless accusations—viz., “egregious insubordination,” “obstructionist conduct”—are irrelevant to this discussion, since they were cooked up by the legal attack dogs the McCain organization sicced on the case.)

Oh, and Palin also said, early and often, that it had nothing to do with repeatedly pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law, which she never did, and didn’t know about either.

Now, the thing about (1.) taking the department in a new direction, (2.) attracting more recruits, (3.) focusing more on alcohol abuse, and (4.) being a team player on budget issues, is that whether or not Monegan mishandled them (evidence: still not in evidence), they shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to him when he first heard about them; i.e., after he was fired. Those are all policy and structure issues. Any one of them would have required Palin to do a fair amount of talking and memo-exchanging with Monagan before she could even tell they were a problem, much less a problem on whose solution she and Monegan were irreconcilably opposed. When you’ve got a guy who by all-but-one accounts was doing a good job, only you want him to take things in a different direction, the first thing you do is talk to him about taking it in a different direction. Firing him comes a lot later, after flurries of memos plus maybe a few F2F tiffs, tizzies, and scenes. By the time it finally happens, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Next point: what are the odds of anyone having four different large-scale administrative problems so serious that every one of them warrants firing him on zero notice, yet none of the problems are interrelated? It’s improbable, is what it is. Also, what are the odds that someone could be screwing up his job like that without pissing off an underling so badly that they’d be willing to talk about it to a friendly and understanding reporter? Should be news stories. Aren’t. And one more bit about that “taking it in a new direction” thing. Palin replaced Monegan with Chuck Kopp, former police chief and acting city manager of Kenai. Whoops! Turns out Kopp had been suspended, investigated, and given a letter of reprimand by the City of Kenai for sexually harassing an underling. Kopp departed, clutching his $10,000 severance package. (Monegan got no severance.) Palin then appointed Joseph Masters, a former security director for a private petrochemical firm. Asked in an interview whether Gov. Palin had discussed her vision of the department with him before hiring him, Masters said “Gov. Palin didn’t give me any guidance or direction or mandates for the department.” It appears that Palin’s “new direction” is as unfindable as evidence of Monegan’s misdeeds.

Oh, who are we kidding? She didn’t fire him for cause. She ran out of patience one day with his continuing refusal to proceed illegally against her ex-brother-in-law, fired him, and only afterward realized that people would notice and have opinions about it. Even then, she didn’t realize that giving four or five different excuses would present a problem.

Every time I try to imagine Sarah Palin at work, what comes out of her mouth is Glory’s dialogue from Season Five of Buffy.

  • Finally she said Monegan was not doing a good job of working on bootlegging in the villages and in recruiting new troopers—she forgot that 3 weeks prior to this announcement she had stated on TV news that he was doing a great job in both of these departments.
  • She even stated she had offered him a job on the Alcohol Board (while firing him as commissioner) simply because he was doing such a good job in this area. Then, couple of days ago, she stated, he was not fired at all, that he quit.

“I did it in self-defense—and besides, I didn’t push him, he jumped. Furthermore, I can prove I was in another city when it happened.” If you stack up too many stories, you eventually reach a point where they all fall over.

  • Now, she is stating he was fired and it was because of “egregious insubordination.” That’s one of the accusations cooked up by McCain’s people. If you don’t buttress it with details, all it means is “He didn’t do something I wanted.”
  • She is asking the Personnel Board - 3 people appointed by Palin - to dismiss the ethics complaint which she filed against herself in order to get it before the Personnel Board - because some out-of-context e-mails sent to Monegan prior to his having been (fired/quit) “exonerate the Governor totally and completely, once and for all.”

The story gets complicated. I highly recommend the Wikipedia entry, Alaska Public Safety Commissioner dismissal: a first-rate piece of work that’s like a vision of what Wikipedia could be in a better world than this.

(Digression: an interesting subplot: If you read the whole entry, pay attention to how many of the charges and complaints made against Mike Wooten, the ex-brother-in-law, turned out to not amount to much; how few of them are based on testimony from people who aren’t close to Sarah Palin; and how much time passes between Wooten’s supposedly scary and threatening words and deeds, and the dates on which Sarah Palin and her sister Molly get around to mentioning them to anyone else. I’m not saying Mike Wooten is a suffering saint; I’m saying the case against him shrinks considerably when you examine it. Three under-reported facts: (1.) Part of the basis for Mike Wooten being made an Alaska State Trooper in 2000 was the fulsome character reference provided him by Sarah Palin. (2.) The Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) granted Molly McCann (Palin’s sister) at the time she filed for divorce was later quashed because McCann’s counsel was unable to produce any evidence of acts of physical or implied violence. In fact, McCann told police at the time of filing that Wooten had never physically abused her. Sarah Palin has since lied about the episode, saying the DVPO was lifted after Wooten’s supervisors intervened. Both Palin and the McCain campaign have subsequently cited the DVPO as evidence that Wooten was violent towards Molly McCann. (3.) At the McCann/Wooten divorce trial,

a representative for the Alaska State Trooper’s union testified that the union viewed the dozen complaints filed by McCann and her family against Wooten as “not job-related” and “harassment”. Judge Suddock repeatedly warned McCann and her family to stop “disparaging” Wooten’s reputation or risk the judge granting Wooten custody of the children. At a court hearing in October 2005, Judge Suddock said “disparaging will not be tolerated - it is a form of child abuse … relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives.”)...

The only reason Troopergate isn’t a bigger mess is that McCain sent a legal team to Alaska in order to obstruct justice. Once they were up and running, Palin’s words and deeds got a lot less random, ditto candid. Still, the uncontaminated pre-legal-team sample of her behavior is enough to establish that her emotional reactions are way off normal....

If she’s so incapable of taking responsibility for her actions that she can’t even answer for herself at a state-level inquiry, she’s not fit for high office. Leaders take responsibility. It’s part of the basic spec.

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